Benefits of Therapy Dogs

Who doesn’t need a smile? You can’t resist smiling when an adorable, friendly dog comes to you and wants to cuddle with you or give you a hug!

Dogs are great companions and mood boosters. They can induce high spirits and lift peoples’ moods immediately. Dogs can spread happiness through their mischievous tactics and playful attitude.

Medical experts realized this phenomenon and came up with the concept of Pet therapy. In the 1970’s Elaine Smith first observed that whenever a chaplain came with a golden retriever, the patients’ moods immediately uplifted after interacting with the dog. This led to organizations training dogs specifically for therapeutic purposes.

What is Dog Therapy?

Dog therapy refers to training dogs to provide comfort and emotional support to people undergoing stressful situations. These dogs can serve as companions in hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes, etc. Usually, such dogs have trained handlers accompany them. Dog therapy has a lot of positive effects. It can help people cope with health problems such as heart diseases, mental health disorders, anxiety, dementia, cancer, or other distressing ailments. Dogs trained for therapy can also provide love and comfort to people in general. They can positively impact the inhabitants of a retirement home or even workers at an office. They also create strong bonds with young children who are admitted to hospitals for treatment.

In a nutshell, dog therapy can provide the following benefits:

• Provide comfort and emotional support to patients or people in general
• Help reduce pain
• Help improve movement
• Help improve social skills
• Increase activity levels individuals by indulging in playful physical games with the dog

How Does Dog Therapy Work?

When doctors mention dog therapy and the patient agrees to it, the patient is registered to that program in a hospital. The doctor arranges for an assistance dog and its handler to visit the patient. The dog is fully trained to uplift the patient’s mood. This can be very beneficial for a patient. If the patient enjoys the dog’s company, the dog therapy continues until the program is completed. This therapy is not only for the patients but is also open for family members and friends of the patient who want to be a part of this activity.

Through this method, dogs can be great stress relievers. Even places like universities and community centers use dogs to deal with high levels of anxiety and stress.

Benefits of Dog-Therapy

You can avail numerous health benefits by spending time with a trained therapy dog. These dogs can help lighten your mood and boost mental health as well as physical health.

Physical Health

Therapy dogs provide so much positivity and enjoyment to humans that a person’s blood pressure lowers, their cardiovascular health can improve overall, and even body pain is reduced. The simple act of petting your canine friend can relax an individual’s body and produce endorphins that have an overall calming effect. This also reduces the need for medication and provides patients with the positivity to fight back. Patients who are recovering from surgery or a bad accident can also find love and encouragement with therapy dogs. The simple act of interacting with gentle therapy dogs can reduce pain levels and enable patients to heal fast.

Mental Health

Someone with low spirits can immediately feel better when a gentle therapy dog comes jogging towards you with a sparkle in its eyes and a huge grin on its face. Therapy dogs are trained to bring happiness to gloomy hearts. These remarkable dogs can ease feelings of depression and also decreases anxiety and boredom. They can also help children overcome speech problems and emotional disorders. Spending time with these dogs is a great way to encourage communication and to deal with loneliness in people. Such interaction can also give confidence to shy children that can enhance their overall motor and literacy skills as well.

Psychiatrists also used therapy dogs for patients with a large range of mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, autism, PTSD, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Therapy Dog Qualities

Any friendly dog can become a therapy dog with little training. Usually, mid-sized dogs such as Retrievers, Poodles, and Labradors are common therapy dogs. Small dogs such as mini poodles can also be trained easily and can develop good interaction with their human companions. If a dog belongs to a good, reputable breed, is well trained and obedient, it can be a fine therapy dog candidate.

The Dog Handler

The dog handler is usually the dog owner who brings the dog to provide therapy. The handler works under the guidance of a doctor and knows how to train the dog to interact with different kinds of patients. There are many organizations that train handlers and can also link them to medical institutes. The handler has to pass a training course so that they know about the different kinds of therapies that can be provided.

Dog Fitness

The dog’s fitness levels must also be analyzed to make sure the dog is medically sound and free of all kinds of diseases. Immunization records are also checked regularly. These dogs also must also be analyzed for temperament so that they behave properly when interacting with people. Therapy dogs have to go through obedience training and gain certification. All these measures are to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the dog therapy process.

Risks Involved

There is a risk that some patients might be allergic to dogs. Sometimes, patients might fear the dog and get even more stressed out than before. There are also some incidents when the patients become too attached to the dog and become possessive of it. This may lead to adverse effects on the patient’s mental health. Also, at times, dogs can also carry infections that can spread to other people. In order to avoid this, the therapy dog must always be thoroughly tested regularly.

by Maria A Davidson || You can’t buy love, but you can rescue it™

Facts About Animal Homelessness:

  1. Only 1 out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home.
  2. The main reasons animals are in shelters: owners give them up, or animal control finds them on the street.
  3. Each year, approximately 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed every year because shelters are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes. Act as a publicist for your local shelter so pets can find homes. Sign up for Shelter Pet PR.
  4. Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  5. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2% of cats and only 15 to 20% of dogs are returned to their owners.
  6. 25% of dogs that enter local shelters are purebred.
  7. About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.
  8. It’s impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States. Estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.
  9. Only 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered. Overpopulation, due to owners letting their pets accidentally or intentionally reproduce, sees millions of these “excess” animals killed annually.
  10. Many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.
  11. According to The Humane Society, there are about 3,500 brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the US and 10,000 rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in North America.

Here are a some adoptions for consideration: